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The need for our federal government to address the crisis on our nation’s porous southern border remains as urgent as ever. The chaotic spectacle of would-be immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Haiti and other countries thronging border crossings and swarming checkpoints amid ever-shifting Biden administration policies is a graphic illustration of the threat that unbridled illegal immigration poses to U.S. national security and public safety.

It is that same border, after all, that is the point of entry for, among other things, the deadly opioid fentanyl. It is flooding Colorado and the rest of the nation and killing our young people. As U.S. border officials — already spread thin — attempt to interdict population flows, they inevitably neglect the flow of illegal drugs.

South Dakota Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune called it a “security nightmare” in a published commentary: “The flood of illegal immigration is so great that huge numbers of (Border Patrol) officers have been pulled off the border to process migrants, further straining enforcement. … That, of course, leaves our borders wide open to illegal activity, including the drug trafficking.”

But stemming the tide of illegal immigration — as well as the face-off in Congress over competing visions for immigration reform that could address the border crisis in the longer run — should not hold up another pressing priority on immigration.

And that is to find a path forward for the many immigrant offspring brought to the U.S. as children by parents who entered illegally. The kids grew up in the U.S. yet have lived in legal limbo ever since.

Their aspirations to succeed in this country — in education, in careers, in life — have often enough been put on hold. They have been derailed by uncertainty over their status and the persistent possibility they could be sent “home” — to a country they’ve never really known.

Hence, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ plea to Congress — as reported this week by our news affiliate Colorado Politics — to enact permanent protections for such undocumented residents. In a letter to the congressional leadership of both parties, Polis cited a recent federal court ruling that has created uncertainty.

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Foreign-born children brought to the U.S. without documentation were given temporary reprieve by the much-debated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program implemented by the Obama administration in 2012.

DACA prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of such immigrants and makes them eligible for employment.

However, a federal judge in Texas last year declared DACA illegal, finding the program had not been vetted properly via public notice and comment as required under federal law. The court left the program temporarily intact for those benefiting from DACA, pending the appeal.

In October, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s initial finding but sent the case back for a look at a new version of the DACA rule issued by the Biden administration in late August. The rule took effect Oct. 31.

The gears of civil justice grind slowly. And however the courts rule, DACA was designed to forestall deportation only temporarily. DACA’s intended beneficiaries deserve stability now — for the first time in their lives.

Polis calls in his letter for “permanent protections” for Colorado’s more than 14,000 DACA participants. The governor is right. DACA’s children should be able to pursue the American dream the same as all their peers — without getting caught up in the broader immigration debate. Congress should act.

The Gazette editorial board

The Gazette editorial board

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